You may have a Bible which you really enjoy reading. You may feel that you would like to try or buy a more up-to-date translation. There have been loads of new translations this century. There is an excellent website called Bible Gateway which has over 150 versions of the Bible available, and which is a really good way of seeing which one might suit you. If you click here you will go to the website. If you wish you can download Bibles onto your computer, ipad, tablet, phone etc. What follows is a review of the various Bibles which I own (quite a few, though nowhere near 150!). This is not yet complete but will give you an idea of different versions. If you wish to look at different Bibles, you are very welcome to come and see mine (please ring me on 01373 812705 or email me on [email protected] first). The best local Bookshop for buying Bibles is the Downside Bookshop, although they will not stock everything – or you can purchase on Amazon. If there is a Study version of the Bible that is always worth purchasing although of course Study versions are much bigger and heavier to carry. My recommendation is that you have at least two modern Bibles so that you can compare translations.
There are three parts to a Bible – the Old Testament, the Apocrypha and the New Testament. Not all Bibles include the Apocrypha, and some Bibles (eg Roman Catholic and Orthodox) include the books in the Apocrypha (at least most of them) in with the Old Testament. The books of the Apocrypha cover much of the period from the return from exile and settling back in Israel in the early 5th century BC until about 100 BC. This is a period which the OT does not cover, and is very helpful.
The most important thing when buying a Bible is to buy one with headings above each ‘story’. Not all Bibles agree on the same headings, but they are incredibly helpful if you need to find something in a hurry, and when reading they help break up the text.
The Bible for Everyone (no Apocrypha)
This consists of The New Testament for Everyone translated by Tom Wright, which I would highly recommend (originally published on its own in 2011, and now with a brief introduction for each book) and The Old Testament for Everyone translated by John Goldingay. It was published in 2018. I had really high expectations of this. However, for some reason John Goldingay has decided that it is good to leave names in their original form. When the OT was originally translated into Greek and then later into Latin, and then much later into English, names changed. For instance Moshes became Moses, Yesha’yahu became Isaiah and Misrayim became Egypt. We are used, in reading the OT to Moses, Isaiah and Egypt but John Goldingay has gone back to the original. This is hugely complicated considering the enormous number of names there are. For this reason, I would not recommend this Bible unless you are already a Bible scholar or know quite a bit about the Bible. I have also found that there are things under a particular heading which really belong either to the next heading or should have a heading of their own. [Also see The New Testament for Everyone below.]
Common English Bible (with Apocrypha)
This was first published in 2011. Click here for the website. I find this a very helpful translation, and use it a lot, although there are one or two odd bits such as Saul coming into the cave where David is to ‘use the rest room’!! There is a Study Bible and I am reading the New Testament from this at the moment. I think if you can only afford one study Bible, don’t necessarily choose this one. Just get the ordinary version which is incredibly helpful.
Christian Standard Bible (no Apocrypha)
This was published in 2017. You can buy an ordinary edition, but I find the Study Bible extremely helpful. It has a commentary on every page, as well as helpful pages explaining particular things and introductions to each book. As well, there are some illustrations, including fantastic photographs, and some very good maps.
(The) English Standard Version (no Apocrypha)
The ESV was first published in 2001, with the Study Bible following in 2008. I find it a very helpful Bible for comparisons, but I would definitely not want it to be my only one – it is too dogmatic. It aims to be more ‘correct’ than any other Bible, but I would not agree with this – sometimes it is really helpful, but at other times not.
Good News Bible (much of Apocrypha provided you buy the Roman Catholic edition)
The Good News Bible was originally published in 1987, and has been updated since then. There are lots of different versions of this, including a Youth version and a Roman Catholic version and it is a really good one for those young people who are moving on from children’s Bibles, or for someone who is just starting to read the Bible.
(The) Jewish Study Bible (no Apocrypha)
This came out in 2004, and is a really good Bible for those who want to know more about the ‘Old Testament’. For the Jews, such a thing does not exist, and this Bible is their total Scriptures. It is arranged in a different order to the OT – The Torah (first five books in the Bible, same as OT), the Nevi’im (what we would call historical books and prophets) and Kethuvim (everything else, roughly translated as the Writings). Thus the Bible is known as the TANAKH (roughly first letters from each part). If you are ready for something a bit more challenging, this is the Bible for you (though you will of course need a Christian Bible with Apocrypha and NT as well). Very helpful comments, with essays and maps as well.
(The) Message (no Apocrypha)
The Message was translated by Eugene Peterson in 2002 (the NT was a bit earlier), and is designed to read like a letter from God. It has no stiff formal language and is very easy to read, although it is not always an ‘exact’ translation..The version I use is a parallel Bible with The Message in one column and The NIV (see below) in the other. I find this really helpful.
(The) New International Version (NIV) (no Apocrypha)
This is the most popular translation in the UK. The only problem is that it does not include the Apocrypha. First published in 1973, it has been updated in 1978, 1984 and 2011. If you are buying a copy, you need to ensure that it is the latest version. There are many different versions on the market. Probably I find the most useful the NIV First-Century Study Bible which was published in 2014. The text is that of 2011, but it has some really excellent notes which see things from the point of view of the first century AD.
New Living Translation (NLT) (no Apocrypha)
This translation was first published in 1996, with updates in 2004 and 2007 when the NLT Study Bible was published. The text is easy to read and the Study notes very helpful. There are also some helpful charts, illustrations and maps. I find this a very useful translation, especially when used in conjunction with other Bibles.
Revised New Jerusalem Bible (much of Apocrypha included)
The Jerusalem Bible was originally published in 1966. The New Jerusalem Bible came out in 1985, with the Reader’s Edition being published in 1990. In 2018, the Revised New Jerusalem Bible New Testament and Psalms with Study Notes was published. I have found the New Testament and Psalms incredibly useful (though there are some errors in the notes about the Psalm numbering). One of the most useful things I find is references to the Old Testament book, chapter and verse where something is quoted in the New (this was also a feature of the 1990 edition). As it is a Roman Catholic Bible nearly all of the Apocrypha is included in the Old Testament itself. The Revised New Jerusalem Bible Study Edition has just been published (end July 2019). The only annoying thing is that they have kept the height as the NT and so it is very thick. Actually it is not too heavy to read, and I am finding it a good Bible with helpful notes etc but not too many of them. There re, however, a few errors in headings etc. And I am finding the type rather small!
(The) New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) (with Apocrypha)
This is the version of the Bible which we normally use in Holy Trinity and St Andrew’s. It is in our Lectionary (the book where we find the designated readings for Sundays). It was published in 1989, and I think could do with being looked at again with a view to a updated translation. Having said that, it is a very accurate translation. If you are buying one, do make sure you buy one with the Apocrypha. There are study versions as well.
(The) New Testament for Everyone (translated by Tom Wright in 2011)
Although this is only the NT, I would highly recommend it. It is an extremely helpful translation, and it has the added value of maps which are especially useful when reading the Acts of the Apostles.
Nicholas King Translation (including much of Apocrypha)
The New Testament was first published in 2004, and has a helpful commentary after each section. The Old Testament is a translation of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Scriptures) and was published in five volumes by 2013. There are study notes at the bottom of each page. It is now possible to buy the complete translation in one volume. This is a very refreshing translation, and is particularly helpful when you need to look at a passage from a different perspective.